Over the weekend, I watched the new BBC documentary series, Seven Ages Of Rock, which on Saturday night was dedicated to punk. A lot of it seemed inevitably familiar, but I perked up as I always do with the footage of The Sex Pistols’ Jubilee boat trip, which I was on, standing about four feet in front of Johnny Rotten as a heaving crowd went hysterical and police launches surrounded us as the Pistols hammered out a defiant “Anarchy In The UK” as we cruised past the Houses Of Parliament.
I’d just done a cover story on the Pistols and the release of “God Save The Queen” for what used to be Melody Maker, almost getting arrested in Ladbroke Grove with them on the way back from a photo-shoot. Evidently, this was enough to secure an invitation to the boat trip that followed on Monday, June 7, Jubilee Day itself.
We left Charing Cross Pier in the early afternoon on a boat called The Queen Elizabeth, setting sail beneath brooding, overcast skies, a whipping wind coming off the Thames. There’s a surly on-board mood, a ton of sulphate around, most of it being washed down by can after can of lager, a lot of people ripped off their tits before the boat reaches Greenwich, where we turn around and head back towards Chelsea Bridge.
Tempers are fraying badly by now and there’s an ugly scuffle, a photogrpaher getting kicked around the deck by someone we’re told is Jah Wobble. We’re heading towards Charing Cross and Parliament when the first police launches appear, coincidentally around the time the Pistols start playing – “Pretty Vacant” giving way to “No Fun” as we pull alongside Parliament.
The police launches are circling us now, searchlights aimed at us, someone with a megaphone shouting at us, presumably ordering us back to the pier, where ranks of surly coppers are waiting, the thought of kicking punk ass an entertaining notion after a long day on Jubilee duty.
Whoever’s in charge boards the Queen Elizabeth when we dock at Charing Cross, and we’re told that if we don’t quit the boat immediately the police will remove us with as much force as they deem necessary. You can see truncheons being unbuckled, and things start getting ugly in a hurry, the police now thundering up the gangplanks, swarming into the crowd.
Paul Cook is still hammering on his drums at this point, and Rotten is screaming “No fun! No fun!”. The power’s off, so you can’t hear Steve Jones and Sid appears to have vanished. There’sd a lot of punching and kicking as we’re herded on to the Embankment. Malcolm Mclraen goes down in front of me, and a couple of us scoop him up before the police close in on him.
“You fucking fascist bastards!” he yells at them, and is promptly dragged behind a souvenir kiosk, beaten up and arrested, one of 11 people from the boat trip who end up that night in jail.
Police vans roar around me as I stand on the Embankment, blood in the gutter and on the wall behind me, torn Jubilee bunting hanging from railings and lamposts, sirens in the distance, the sound of England screaming.